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Lake Catoma, also known as the Catoma Reservoir, is nestled within the Alabama Mountains tourism region. It boasts a surface area of 536 acres and a normal elevation of 742 feet above sea level. The Lake Catoma Dam was constructed in 1966, designed by the City of Cullman Utilities Board to supply raw and drinking water to Cullman County. A water treatment plant was built just one year earlier to this end. At 1,800 feet in length, it also provides water to the neighboring Winston and Morgan Counties. Lake Catoma is a part of the Eightmile Creek Watershed, along with four other impoundments: Lake George, Eva Road Lake, Sportsman Lake, and Carl Budweg Dams.
While Lake Catoma is primarily used as a water supply, it also provides opportunities for a number of recreational activities, primarily boating and fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish. Boat speed is limited to 10 horsepower. Perhaps the best hiking path in the area is the North Alabama Birding Trail. This unconventional trail is made up of a series of roadside stops - all accessible by car, bike or foot - over three circles: the Northeast, Northwest, and Central Loops. Cullman's Hurricane Creek Park kiosk is home to flycatchers, cardinals, chickadees and more. The Ave Maria Grotto and Gardens offers another nearby site, as does Guntersville State Park - a preserve that features 5,600 acres of protected forest. Real estate properties are available nearby.
Southwest of Lake Catoma lies Lewis Smith Lake, also known simply as Smith Lake. These deep, emerald waters hold state and world records for spotted bass (catches commonly register over 20 pounds). Impressively, Smith Lake's heaviest recorded striped bass weighed in at a whopping 32 pounds, 8 ounces. Brushy Creek, Dismal Creek and Rock Creek are the area's three most legendary fishing spots. It is adjacent to the William B. Bankhead National Forest, with its 153 miles of hiking, biking, ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) and horseback riding trails; Black Warrior Horse Trail is one of the most intense and rewarding treks in the park. After traversing 23 miles of tough terrain, adventurers are rewarded with views of gushing waterfalls, dramatic ravines, and precipitous cliffs.
Two county parks close to Lake Catoma include Sportsman Lake and Smith Lake Parks, both offering free admission. Mini-golfing, pedal boating, fishing and camping are fabulous family activities. Camp sites feature water, sewage and electric hookups. Sportsman Lake Park is unique because of its miniature children's train, ferris wheel, and carousel. A paved trail is perfect for roller skating and bicycling. Smith Lake Park is best known for its 500 miles of shoreline, as well as a swimming pool with winding water slide. Picnic areas and cabins can be found on-site.
A third county park near Lake Catoma is the Clarkson Bridge Park, the site of the 1863 Civil War Battle of Hog Mountain. Over the years, countless artifacts from this time period have been found within the vicinity. In 1904, a 270-foot bridge was erected over Crooked Creek by property owner J.W. Legg. A highly unique design of webbed planks resulted in a bridge that could withstand an enormous amount of weight - and cost a whopping $1,500 at the time of construction. Today, hiking trails and picnic areas can be found throughout the area - which was named on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Due to deterioration and aging, the bridge is now closed to traffic for safety reasons.
With Birmingham just 50 miles south of Lake Catoma, visitors enjoy all of the benefits and conveniences of a major city. Even closer lies the historic City of Cullman. Archiving the municipality's history, the Cullman County Museum is located within a replica of the house that belonged to town founder, German-born Colonel John G. Cullman. Eight rooms along the main floor contain artifacts dating all the way back to the Civil War era. Just four blocks away from the museum you'll find a similar quaint building: Weiss Cottage, the oldest residence in the entire town.
History buffs and nature lovers alike will enjoy Lake Catoma. Come experience Alabama's renowned southern hospitality and nurture your spirit along these secluded shores.
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